One of the many surprising moments in Netflix’s hit docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness came when Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a.k.a. Joe Exotic, married Dillon Passage just two months after husband Travis Maldonado accidentally shot himself and died.
Perhaps even more surprising is Passage’s determination to stay with his husband since Maldonado-Passage’s arrest in September 2018 — just nine months after their wedding — and through his 22-year prison sentence for hiring a hitman to kill his rival, Carole Baskin.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Passage, 24, tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “Joe was there for me in my darkest moments. I’m not going to just abandon him when he needs support more than anything.”
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Passage also admits that he and Maldonado-Passage have talked about moving on — but Passage won’t hear of it.
“We’ve had that conversation a few times,” Passage says. “He’s always said, ‘If you need to move on, you can.’ And I’m just like, ‘I don’t have any intention of doing that.’ I don’t feel the need to go find another partner at this time.”
Passage explains, “He really is a good man, true to his heart. … He was very charitable and would help sick people and would invite people with mental disabilities and other disabilities to the zoo. And he would show them around personally, even children, kids with cancer. He would just give them their own personal tour. And he really wanted everyone to be happy and just spread love. But he had his moments where he had his dark sides and could get cranky and be a butthole.”
“Since he’s been in jail, he’s had his moments where he’s had breakdowns, but that’s understandable,” Passage continues. “But when we were at the park, he was never angry with me. He’d wake me up every morning with a bacon, egg and cheese croissant and some coffee. He really did treat me like a king and I can never thank him enough for the things he’s done for me.”
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is streaming now on Netflix.
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